Chris Wiewiora reflects on his life in pools at Frostwriting.
I know all the pools I’ve ever been to. The first one I remember is West Virginia Wesleyan College in the mountains of my hometown, Buckhannon. The private Methodist school had an Olympic-size pool that the public could swim in for a small admission fee. I learned how to swim there with my father.
Dad splashed in, lowering himself further down, then strummed chords on an invisible acoustic guitar and sung the folk song I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor…. The snake ate him throughout the verses: “Oh no, oh no. He’s swallowed my toe / Oh gee, he’s up to my knee / Oh my, he’s up to my thigh / Uh-oh, uh-oh. He’s at my torso.” Deeper and deeper the water climbed up. Then “Oh heck, he’s up to his neck—Gulp!” Dad went under and the water ate him whole.
After surfacing, Dad coaxed me into the pool: Jump in, I’ll catch you. He held onto me with one hand on my stomach and let me practice the front crawl: Stroke, breathe, stroke. Dad let me go: Just keep your head up. I dog paddled in place, slapping the water frantically. I started to sink, gulping more water than air. Dad caught me right before I went under: Good try.
All at once came my moment of success: I paddled in the shallow end without needing Dad to save me and swam into the deep end where I couldn’t put my feet down on the pool’s floor. After Dad taught me to swim, my mother wanted to teach me to float. Mom and her younger sister, my aunt, would lie on their backs and skim half in, half out of a pool for hours in perfect symmetry. I expected them to puff out a snort like whales.
image Roger White @ At Length